Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Rice baseball team had six runs on seven hits, and another solid start on the mound from sophomore right-hander Ricardo Salinas, for a 6-2 Conference USA road victory at Middle Tennessee in the finale of the weekend series Sunday afternoon in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Rice was on the scoreboard early with a pair of runs in the top of the third inning. Hunter Kopycinski reached on a Middle Tennessee fielding error to lead it off, and Tristan Gray followed with a single to right-center field. Both runners advanced on Grayson Lewis’ sacrifice bunt, and then additional 90-feet as a third strike later bounded away from the Blue Raider backstop. Kopycinski scored, and Gray soon followed across the plate on a sacrifice fly by Dane Meyers to make it 2-0.
The Owls extended the margin in the sixth. Ford Proctor drew a walk and Connor Teykl chopped a two-out hit to the right side to put men on first and second. Andrew Dunlap battled-off pitches before driving the ball into right-center to score one run with Teykl hustling to third. Chad Tatum pinch ran for Dunlap at first, and proceeded to steal second base. Both runners were able to score on a single by Kopycinski for a 5-0 Rice lead.
The insurance runs were a welcome addition because Middle Tennessee came right back with a run in the bottom of the bottom of the inning. Riley Delgado knocked a one-out double to left and scored on a single by Austin Dennis. The Blue Raiders would go on to load the bases, but Salinas came up big. He worked his way out of further trouble by fielding a tricky come-backer to the mound for one out and then getting an inning-ending strikeout.
Rice got the run back in the seventh without a base hit. The Owls drew two walks and had a hit batter before Dayne Wunderlich’s RBI grounder made the score 6-1.
The Blue Raiders continued to fight and scored one final run in the eighth after a leadoff single, walk, and pair of ground outs. The two runs were all Middle Tennessee could muster off Salinas. In his seventh start of the season the Houston native scattered six hits and three walks while working 7.1 innings. He struck out eight to improve his season record to 4-1. Sophomore Willy Amador closed out the final 1.2 frames allowing just one hit.
Seven different Owls all had one hit, and six different players accounted for each of the runs. Kopycinski had a pair of RBI and a walk on a 1-for-3 day.
The Owls improved to 17-10 on the season and 7-2 in C-USA league play by taking two of the three weekend road games. Middle Tennessee is now 13-15 overall and 2-7 in conference.
Rice has completed the road swing and next begins a four-game homestand starting on Tuesday (April 5). The Owls host longtime rival Texas A&M at Reckling Park starting at 6:30 pm. The game is scheduled for a live radio broadcast in the Houston area on ESPN Deportes (1180 AM), and is the Blue & Gray’s lone midweek contest before a weekend C-USA series vs. UAB on April 8-10.